Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Ireland protesting!

In all the years living in Dublin, I have yet to seen so many demonstrations and marches organised in the city. Until this year. With so many issues nagging at the population left, right and center, on top of economic downturn, more and more people are taking to the streets to make their voices heard.

Earlier in the year, the atrocity of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians saw a series of protests held in the city in succession. So far, the various protests and marches since January:

03.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
10.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
13.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
17.01.2009 : Anti-war Groups against Gaza Bombing
02.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
02.02.2009 : Busworkers’ Action Group against Transports Cutbacks
04.02.2009 : Union of Students in Ireland (USI) against Fees Reintroduction
05.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
06.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
09.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
09.02.2009 : Teachers United against Education Underfunding
11.02.2009 : Dublin Bus Action Group against Transports Cutbacks
16.02.2009 : Union of Students in Ireland (USI) against Fees Reintroduction
17.02.2009 : Taxi Drivers against Deregulation
18.02.2009 : Garda Representative Association (GRA) against Government’s New Pension Levy
18.02.2009 : Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) against Government’s New Pension Levy
18.02.2009 : Dublin Bus/ SIPTU against Transports Cutbacks

And upcoming protests and strikes, including one tomorrow:

21.02.2009 : National Demonstration organised by ICTU, 2pm, Parnell Street to Dáil Éireann
25.02.2009 : Garda Representative Association (GRA) against Government’s New Pension Levy (morning)
26.02.2009 : Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) One-Day Strike
28.02.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike
01.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ SIPTU All-Out Strike (from this date, possibly ongoing)
09.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike
10.03.2009 : Dublin Bus/ NBRU One-Day Strike

With regards to strikes, it’s prudent for commuters to pay particular attentions to them. Usually, per what is norm for Dublin, such strikes may be averted following union-authority discussions. But given the unsettled times, who know what’s next?

12 Days of Christmas

While the folks over in Paris were all in wintery mood because it was snowing, the weather in Dublin since yesterday has been less than kind as it stays showery, albeit in small doses. Still. I want the clear blue sky back…

Well, I’m sure everyone has by now cleared out all Irish pork products from your fridge/freezer, including sausages, bacon and ham, after the recall last week following detection of high levels of dioxin in them – up to 200 times over the allowed limit! There shouldn’t be unnecessary panic though and I think it’s good that the recall is being done, and the shelves are now being restocked with pork from outside of the republic and if it’s Irish they’re new uncontaminated stock.

Faced with all these gloom and doom, a little cheering up would be nice. Christmas cheer in particular. So why not head over to the IFSC for 12 Days of Christmas?

“The 12 days of Christmas market at the Docklands is full of more Christmas cheer than your Da when the in laws leave!”

That’s the tagline! Cute, lol…

There are lots of food stalls selling bratwurst (contamination-free all the way from Germany), herby roast potatoes, mulled wine, pretzels, chocolates, truffles, crepes, hot nuts… (I’ve got to stop listing since it’s making *me* hungry right now) as well as gift stalls where you can hunt for some Christmas presents including jewelleries, toys, clothings, decorative items, books, woodcraft and more!

At weekends, Santa Grotto will also be open. On top of that, there would also be entertainments in the form of brass band, face painter and balloon modeller. Just the thing to keep kids happy and cheerful.

I’ll definitely be making my way there at least a couple of times in the next 12 days. Hmmm… I’m dreaming of the grilled sausages with roast potatoes and mulled wine as it is…

Unity through music : Playing for Change

Everywhere you go around the city, you’ll see now of the Christmas lightings and trees and decorations. There were Christmas songs belting through the sound system from Brown Thomas but unfortunately now this may be shut because the Dublin City Council deemed it noise pollution blah di blah. I mean, c’mon, this is pretty much part of Grafton Street Christmas tradition – to walk past BT, admire their beautifully decorated windows (with overpriced items that I could never afford, but that’s not the point) and sing/hum along to the Christmas carols!

Please don’t spoil this festive cheers by being so uptight about this. I don’t know of anyone who complained about the music and as far as I know, it actually puts people in Christmassy mood. More than the weird Christmas tree on O’Connell Street that the city council was raving over.

And staying with the topic of music, watch this video by Playing for Change. I know it’s not Dublin-specific, but it emphasises music as an universal language that links people together. Including Dubliners, and you and me who live in this city.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM[/youtube]

There are a few reasons why I think it’s appropriate to post this video here today. First and foremost, it’s a beautiful song that’s produced using recordings from all over the world, harmonised together so elegantly that it resonates with everyone. Secondly, this organisation aims to promote peace through music, and this is one endeavour that I’m whole-heartedly supporting. Thirdly, I think we can all do with a good reminder that no man is an island and we have wonderful people, friends and family, that stand by us every day, every step that we take. (Quite nicely, it was Thanksgiving yesterday in the US, so what are you thankful for this year?)

We need more positive actions like this.

In the past week, we’ve seen chaos in the Middle East (so much so that it’s nearly business-for-usual that doesn’t quite raise the eyebrows anymore), military coup in Thailand and most shockingly the violent attacks in Mumbai that left over 100 people dead and a few hundred more injured. At the moment there are some progress made in containing the attacks and I hope there will not be anymore unnecessary casualties.

But it begets a few questions. Why are men still using violence in order to achieve what they want? How come, through the ages and civilisations, are there still systems and governments that don’t work that the people felt they need to speak out radically? And why are men not searching for better middle grounds to their ideologies, and at times agree to disagree, or able to disagree without being disagreeable?

Sure, there are no simple answers to these. I long for the ideal world, but hey I also often live behind a rose-tinted glasses, Pollyanna world. I’ve tried stepping out and look at things with more cynicism and skepticism, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like what I see.

Oh well, this is something best left to philosophers to debate.

Uh oh, they’re sorry they’re here…

Well, half of them. Them being large multinational companies.

This can’t be a very good news in time of economic downturn. Almost half of multinational companies surveyed by IDA (they surveyed 97/538 companies, which works out about 18% of client portfolios) that are currently based in Ireland have indicated that given a second chance to relocate their companies, Ireland would not have been their choice. The two main cited reasons – high business costs and poor infrastructure. It appears not only the residents here are tired of rip-off Ireland, foreign investors are also unhappy with fatigued accountings.

With the widening of European markets, there are more options than ever for any company that’s currently looking into tapping into the continent. Of the companies that said they would have chose a different location, almost 2/3 of them would choose Eastern Europe. Not only that, some 16% would even go to UK. This must be sending some major alarm bells to the government!

But of course Ireland does have its own saving graces, since the other half surveyed are happy where they are right now and would not have choose an alternative location. Top of the list of graces is the favourable corporation tax rates, which even McCain evoked time and time again during his (now lost) presidential bid debates and speeches. The other main advantages are skilful set of labour, high technological knowledge (although we still sorely need better telecoms and broadband infrastructures) and favourable regulations for multinationals relocating here.

However, in times of global competitions, the balancing act is tricky at best (e.g. maintaining high living standard but battling rapid increases in wages which reduces profits and thus taxation) for the government. Not only that, the international economic climate also influences decision making by large international firms which are trying to remain competitive. For one, a large number of the multinationals currently based in Ireland are American-owned, and if tax breaks offered by President-elect Obama be deemed more favourable, the companies may begin to downsize their operations here and return to US for their expansions.

I guess we won’t know right now how the events will unfold. Only time will tell. In the mean time, the government has to stop sitting on the laurels of Celtic Tiger, and start to think of Plan B (and C and D) to keep the economy of the country growing. One thing that I can think of right now is, stop spending frivolously on all sorts of overbudgeted and overran (time wise) projects!

There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama?

Taking a break from the usual Dublin-related blog entries, I came across this video while catching up on some US election articles on The Guardian. Hurray to the Irish for embracing diversity and never forgetting one of their own – Obama’s great great greatgrandfather hailed from Co. Offaly.

(By the way, all the 4 main names on the election tickets have Irish ancestry. I wonder if the others have songs written and dedicated just for them the way it does for Obama.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EADUQWKoVek[/youtube]

You can sing along to the chorus too, if you wish:
O’Leary, O’Reilly, O’Hare and O’Hara,
There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama,
From the old Blarney Stone to the green hills of Tara,
There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama.

Not sure though if Bill O’Reilly would be pleased with such inclusion. He hasn’t exactly been a fan of Obama of late from what I gather from the media…

Radio Nova granted licence for Dublin rock station

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) have awarded Radio Nova a commercial radio licence fo a new classic rock station in Dublin, to begin broadcasting from August 2009. Despite applications for the licence from two other contenders – Rock Radio and Classic Rock Radio – the licence was awarded without an oral hearing – a first for the BCI. Phantom FM broke the mould in 2004 when they were granted a licence from the BCI to broadcast an alternative music station after years operating as a pirate station. Personally I can’t wait to have another alternative to Westlife and breakfast DJ’s. For the full story click here.

Transport21: €70,000 Logo

I would be eager to hear what any marketing execs or indeed Joe Public thinks of this logo for our fantastic new Transport21 plan:

Snazzy? Effective? It had bloody well want to be, it cost €70,000 of taxpayers money to come up with it after Noel Dempsey, Minister for Transport, snubbed the free logo that had been drawn up by the Department of Transport.

It emerged today that Noel Dempsey allocated €2 million of taxpayers money to outside consultants, PR and advertising in the first half of 2008 alone, with the majority being spent on promoting Transport21. You can read the full story here.

I may not be too savvy when it comes to the multi-layered world of PR and advertising, and I do acknowledge that a certain amount of promotion is necessary, but a €70,000 logo – funded by the target audience?? I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks that this is justifiable.

Festival of World Cultures 2008

From Friday to Sunday, Dun Laoghaire is hosting the Festival of World Cultures. The event promises a mix of music, performances, markets, food and other eclectic fun.

Check out their website for a full programme of events. Some are free and some are ticketed (the awesome Seu Jorge is sold out) but it all looks fun.

http://www.festivalofworldcultures.com

festival

Gone are the days of the 10 penny mixture…

I think I’ll start a regular ‘Rip-off Ireland’ name and shame spot, prompted by the fact that retailers in ‘Dublin’s fair city’ think that they can charge what they damn well please and get away with it. For an excellent example of this, see Conor’s post from a few weeks ago about rip off rice merchants.

Another shining example: I brought my 5-year-old son and 8-year-old cousin to Charlestown Shopping Centre during the week to run a few errands. After bribing them with anything their little hearts desired to ‘please behave for just half an hour’, I made good on my promise and told them to pick out 5 sweets each from the pick-n-mix vendor, Sweet Express. My jaw almost fell off when the assistant asked for payment of €7.90. Yes, you read right… €7.90. For 10 sweets.

More fool me for paying it you might say, but (note to self) doe eyes and quivering lips can be a powerful tool.

Time to Sober Up Dublin!

taps.JPG

New liquor laws came into effect on Friday July 30th at midnight. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, which seems to have slipped quietly under the radar of the alcohol-consuming public, includes the following changes:

New hours for off sales of alcohol.
• Tougher public order provisions allowing the Gardaí to seize alcohol from minors.
• A court procedure to secure a new wine-only off-licence.
• New grounds for objection to the granting of an off-licence.
• New conditions attaching to the granting of a special exemption order, and
• Holders of theatre licences will be restricted to the normal licensing hours unless additional hours are sanctioned by a special exemption order.

What this basically means people, is that we are being governmentally prevented from getting our drink on in the manner to which we have become accustomed. Now, I’m all for preventing underage drinking, but surely we could take a little guidance from our continental counterparts and encourage the education of children towards the dangers of over-indulgence and ensure more vigilant publicans and off-licence staff rather than giving the oul Gardai free reign to bait the shite out of poor little Timmy who’s been caught with a couple of cans of Dutchy down the shelters because he promised his ma he wouldn’t break ‘The Pledge’.

The bill also abolishes theatre licences, ensuring that all nightclubs, late bars and theatre bars now close at 2.30am. Currently in Ireland, we have relatively staggered closing hours, with pubs closing at 12.30am, late bars at 2.30am, and nightclubs and theatre bars at 3.30am. This sequential system has been found to reduce public order offences [UK Institute of Alcohol Studies], whereas there is no evidence to support the proposal that the new system of having a blanket closing time will have the same effect. The bill that has been passed effectively forces punters into the streets at the same time, putting added strain on taxi services, fast food outlets and local emergency services and gardai. Surely I am not the only one who can see that 1000’s of drunken Dubliners conglomerating on the banks of the Liffey to fight over a taxi or push their way up the que in Rik’s Burgers is going to cause more than a few squabbles? Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, doesn’t seem to think so. According to Deputy Ahern, “people would be staggering from premises to premises if we gave an opportunity to go from bar to late bar and then on to nightclubs”. Now, I am perfectly aware that we didn’t earn our reputation as a nation of drinkers for nothing, but since when is Dermot Ahern judge and jury in charge of enforcing punishment upon us for being fond of the sauce every once in a while? In the wise words of a friend, Ireland has grown into a “fierce progressive place”, and we’re no longer a nation of Jemmy-swilling ogre’s who need constant monitoring. As things were, revellers could finish up their drinks in their boozer of choice and then choose to either head to a nightclub/late bar/whatever or do a legger home. I’ll be the first to admit to occasionally succumbing to the alluring charms of The Gaiety and it’s promise of warm beer in plastic cups at 2.30 of a Sunday morning, but 9 times out of 10 the sight of a yellow taxi light taking the corner at Stephen’s Street is enough to have me skidding through the rain in 6 inch heels and hurling myself in front of said taxi screaming at the occupant to ‘take me home for the love of god’. My point is, most people know when its time to go home. Ok, there’s always going to be the odd hen party bride or drunken suit who’s been slumped at the bar in Cocoon since leaving Deloitte & Touche at 5 o’clock that evening – but if someone is determined to find the next drink, they’ll find it regardless. All the new licensing laws are doing is encouraging house parties, and in return domestic disturbance and neighbours from hell scenarios, along with turfing a load of drunk people out onto the streets of Dublin to make their way home in a city with an already sub-standard transport system.

The bill also prevents off-licences opening beyond 10pm 7 days a week with no exceptions. So if you decide to be a good little civilian and sit down to watch an RTE Saturday Night Movie rather than partaking in the nation’s apparent past-time of choice – binge drinking – you are no longer given the option to pop down the offie for a bottle of cab sav to accompany the giant bar of galaxy that you purchased for the occasion. Tough – you should’ve thought of it earlier.

Not to mention the fact that most nightclubs and theatre-licence holders will be losing an average of 8 hours business per week – with many of them choosing now to not open at all on a Sunday as they will have to close at 1am on ‘the Sabbath’. In a time of imminent recession, it hardly seems clever to be limiting the business hours of one of our most profitable industries now does it?

Call me a sceptic, but as far as I can see the new act achieves nothing but a quick fix to an age old problems. I’d love to stay and hash out some alternatives for our government to mull over between tribunals but it’s nearly 9.30 so I’ve to get myself down to the offo STAT.

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